Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk thinks every car on the road today — and many more in the future — will eventually be outlawed.
The reason? They require humans to drive.
“In the distant future, [legislators] may outlaw driven cars because they’re too dangerous,” Musk told NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang at company’s annual developers conference Tuesday. “You can’t have a person driving a two-ton death machine.”
“We’ll take autonomous cars for granted in quite a short time,” Musk told attendees gathered in the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. “I almost view it as a solved problem. We know what to do, and we’ll be there in a few years.”
Musk said that Teslas are already functionally hardware-capable of driving themselves thanks to the cars’ 360-degree ultrasonic sensors, camera and radar, but they lack the software necessary for it to be safe.
“Autonomy is really about what level of reliability, of safety, do you want,” Musk said. “Even with the current sensor suite, we could make the car go fully autonomous, but not to a level of reliability that would be safe at a complex urban environment at 30 miles-per-hour, with lane markings not there, and children playing, and things coming at you from the side.”
That’s where NVIDIA’s new Drive system comes into play. Made up of a “digital cockpit computer” and an “auto-pilot computer,” Drive is capable of identifying road signs, pedestrians and other common roadway obstacles. The company hopes to get in on the ground floor of the self-driving vehicle market, and will begin releasing Drive PX developer kits to automakers in May for $10,000 a piece.
“What NVIDIA is doing with Tegra is really interesting and really important for self-driving in the future,” Musk said referring to the advanced mobile processors in the PX supercomputer — the most advanced NVIDIA has ever built.
Musk, who frequently cites artificial intelligence development as a dangerous area of research, said there was little to worry about in regard to automobile AI.
“I don’t think we have to worry about autonomous cars, because it’s sort of like a narrow form of AI,” Musk said. “There used to be elevator operators, and then we came up with circuitry so the elevator knew to come to your floor. Cars will be like that.”
Still, Musk said there are a number of obstacles to consider before human drivers are taken out of the equation, including cybersecurity. Tesla is currently putting “a lot of effort” into making sure hackers can’t infiltrate the car’s crucial systems and take control of braking, acceleration, steering, etc.
The two billion cars currently on the road are another, plus the 100 million automakers will produce next year. If self-driving cars were road-ready tomorrow, it would take 20 years to replace every car on the road.
“It’s not going to all transition immediately,” Musk said. “It’ll take quite a while.”